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Showing posts from September, 2011

Biometrics at Pizza Hut and KFC? How Face Recognition and Digital Fingerprinting Are Creeping Into the U.S. Workplace

Biometric technology is being used to more closely track low-wage workers, already desperate in a bad economy.

All summer, Lathem Corp. product marketing manager Tony Burks has been on tour, pitching the biometric company's line of face-scanning time clocks at trade shows around the country. In his presentations Burks moves toward the small device and then backs away, showing how FaceIN uses some of the latest advances in face recognition technology to assess his identity from up to three feet away. FaceIN uses two cameras to map a worker's face, converting the width of their cheekbones, depth of their eye sockets, nose shape, and other unique facial features into an ID code. Every day after that, workers punch in by standing in front of a machine that recognizes them after a two-second face scan. Unlike the old-fashioned electronic password, FaceIN promises to tightly monitor when workers come and go, permanently banishing "buddy punching" from the workp…

Hudak revives law-and-order message, pledges public sex-offender registry in Ontario

The Conservative campaign vowed to make the province’s sex-offender registry public and to place monitoring bracelets on anyone police consider to be at a high risk to offend. The party’s platform has a heavy focus on law and order, but Mr. Hudak spent the first week of the campaign focusing on the Liberals' plan to provide a $10,000 tax credit for companies who hire immigrants and on his plan to reduce taxes to create jobs.
“I will create a sex-offender registry and make it public so moms and dads will know if there’s a child predator in their neighbourhood and take the right precautions,” he said. Surrounded by a group of parents who earlier this month found out sex offender Sarah Dahle was living next to a neighbourhood school in a halfway house, Mr. Hudak said his program would make it easier to keep track of high-risk offenders, and keep parents informed about who is living next door.
Read on...They don't work. Tom

Prison guard union not endorsing Ontario PC chain-gang plan

The union that represents guards at Ontario prisons says it was never consulted about Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak’s plan to put convicts to work in the community.Mr. Hudak told reporters Wednesday that he believes correctional officers are in favour of the work program, which would require prisoners to perform manual labour for up to 40 hours a week in exchange for perks in prison. His opponents have derided the plan, calling it a “chain gang” initiative.Provincial guards like this idea,” Mr. Hudak said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We’re just asking the prisoners to do what every other hard-working Ontarian does – an honest day’s work instead of spending the day working out to become better criminals.”Read on...The tough on crime strategy is really getting tired. Tom

Undocumented Pregnant Women Forced To Give Birth While Shackled In Front Of Police

Just when you thought the nationwide crackdown on undocumented immigrants couldn’t get any more brutal, the Huffington Post reports that pregnant women in Arizona and Tennessee were detained and forced to give birth while shackled to their hospital beds because they couldn’t produce identification. The shackling of female inmates when they go into labor has been a roundly condemned practice in prisons, but local authorities are now extending that humiliation to non-violent immigrant women whose only crime was being stopped by police without a valid license:“When I was in bed, I was begging the sheriff, ‘Please let me free — at least one hand,’ and he said, no, he didn’t want to,” Juana Villegas said in an interview with a local Nashville television station. She was describing the experience of being shackled to her hospital bed as she went into labor. Villegas gave birth in the sheriff’s custody, after she was stopped by local police while driving without a valid license.[...…

B.C. considers provincial police after Ottawa threatens RCMP withdrawal

Ottawa is threatening to pull all RCMP municipal detachments out of British Columbia if the province does not sign a take-it-or-leave-it new policing contract by the end of November. B.C. Solicitor-General Shirley Bond said the federal government’s ultimatum leaves the province with no option but to begin investigating the possibility of re-establishing its own police force, something it hasn’t had since 1950.
“I don’t want to characterize it that I’m looking at a provincial police force,” Ms. Bond told reporters, after her startling announcement Tuesday at the annual Union of B.C. Municipalities convention. “My number one priority is reaching a settlement with the federal government to maintain an RCMP contract. But when you receive an ultimatum that the RCMP may be withdrawing from this province, I think any responsible minister would begin to do their homework.”
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The cost of one Conservative crime bill for one year: $458-million

The Correctional Service of Canada will spend more than $450-million this year implementing just one of the Conservative government’s new tough-on-crime measures – the Truth in Sentencing Act – as Canada’s prison system expands to accommodate a rush of new inmates.The Conservatives have spent years trying to pass a series of crime and justice laws, with much of the opposition debate centred on the cost of new initiatives. The CSC report reveals for the first time how much one legislative change is costing taxpayers at a time when the Conservatives are set to pass new omnibus law-and-order legislation.The 2010 Truth in Sentencing Act – which ended two-for-one sentencing practices in which judges give a convicted individual two days credit for each day spent in awaiting trial – has led to more inmates and increased costs, the agency responsible for federal prisons acknowledges.Read on...Yep, lets shred the social safety net and spend it all on prisons. Tom

If it Bleeds, it Leads: Why it Took Police Violence to Make the Media Notice 'Occupy Wall Street'

A bit after 10 p.m. on Saturday night in occupied Liberty Plaza, there was a celebration around the media tables. Photocopied facsimiles of Sunday’s New York Daily News were being passed around and photographed. After having held the plaza with hundreds of protesters at any given time for a week, and having kept the blocks surrounding the Stock Exchange barricaded by police all the while, the protest was finally getting serious news coverage.“The Daily News!” I heard someone say on the plaza. “It’s because this is a sustained occupation.”Exclaimed one of those doing media relations, “We’ve already won!”Just a few hours earlier, it seemed certain that a full-on police dispersal would come that night. Contingency plans were being discussed by the protesters’ General Assembly. But now the Daily News cover and the presence of TV vans seemed like guardian angels, ensuring that they’d make it until morning.So what occasioned the media’s sudden interest? To what do these protest…

Alabama Town Says Church or Jail

Yes, this is what the beginning of a theocracy looks like. A small town in Alabama is forcing individuals charged with misdemeanors to choose between serving time in Jail or time at a Christian only church. Yeah, you read that right.Starting this week, the city judge [of Bay Minette, Alabama] will implement Operation Restore Our Community (ROC), which gives misdemeanor offenders a choice between fines and jail or a year of Sunday church services. [...] Pastor Robert Gates told WRKG that the program was a win-win for everyone involved. "You show me somebody who falls in love with Jesus, and I'll show you a person who won't be a problem to society," he said. ACLU of Alabama director Olivia Turner called the policy "blatantly unconstitutional."Read on....

NYPD Pepper Spray procedure

James Fallows on the abusive cops spraying corralled protesters in the face with pepper spray:
[A]ccording to the NYT, the chief police spokesman, Paul Browne, said that the policeman used pepper spray "appropriately." Great. On the video we can't hear what either side is saying. But at face value, the casualness of the officer who saunters over, sprays right in the women's eyes, and then slinks away without a backward glance, as if he'd just put down an animal, does not match my sense of "appropriate" behavior by officers of the law in a free society.

Think about it: If this were part of some concerted, "appropriate" crowd-control plan, then presumably the pepper-spray officer would have talked with the other policemen trying to control the women. He would have stayed on the scene; he had done something dramatic to affect a situation, so -- again, if this were "appropriate" -- presumably he would have talked with the other…

He was 14 yrs. 6mos. and 5 days old --- and the youngest person executed in the United States in the 20th Century

He was 14 yrs.
In a South Carolina prison sixty-six years ago, guards walked a 14-year-old boy, bible tucked under his arm, to the electric chair. At 5' 1" and 95 pounds, the straps didn’t fit, and an electrode was too big for his leg.The switch was pulled and the adult sized death mask fell from George Stinney’s face. Tears streamed from his eyes. Witnesses recoiled in horror as they watched the youngest person executed in the United States in the past century die.Now, a community activist is fighting to clear Stinney’s name, saying the young boy couldn’t have killed two girls. George Frierson, a school board member and textile inspector, believes Stinney’s confession was coerced, and that his execution was just another injustice blacks suffered in Southern courtrooms in the first half of the 1900s. In a couple of cases like Stinney’s, petitions are being made before parole boards and courts are being asked to overturn decisions made when society’s thumb was we…

A rare look at the inner-workings of the Supreme Court of Canada

At lunchtime each day, Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie joins his eight colleagues in their private dining room. They joke, gripe and gossip about lawyers and other judges, covering every conceivable topic except the one foremost on their minds – the cases they must decide.Lunching together and avoiding after-hours fraternizing are part of a concerted plan to eliminate the sort of fractious infighting that has been all too common on previous benches, Judge Binnie said in an exclusive interview to mark his retirement after serving 14 years as a backbone and intellectual leader of the court.“The worst fix we could get into is to have little cabals discussing their perspective and voting in blocs,” the 72-year-old judge said. “We don’t want judges going from room to room, pigeonholing colleagues and then presenting other colleagues with: ‘Well, I’ve already got four judges to agree with me, and that’s the outcome of the case.’ ”Read on...

A crime debate without facts or arguments

By Dan Gardner, Ottawa Citizen

I suppose I could write a substantive and serious column about the government's omnibus crime bill.First, I'd explain the many proposals. Then I'd say they are a terrible mistake. They will not reduce crime, but they will waste billions of dollars, spawn injustices, and damage communities. Or so I would argue.If I did that, I would cite evidence. Lots of it. There's a small mountain of criminological research to support my case, along with much fine writing by jurists and political scientists. There's also practical experience, here and elsewhere - especially the United States, where even rock-ribbed Republicans are having second thoughts about the policies Stephen Harper is importing to this country.I could do that. It would be easy. I've done it before. Dozens of times. I've been writing about criminal justice policy ever since I became a journalist in 1997.Read on...

Supporters claim injustice as Georgia executes Troy Davis

Strapped to a gurney in Georgia's death chamber, Troy Davis lifted his head and declared one last time that he did not kill police officer Mark MacPhail. Just a few feet away behind a glass window, Mr. MacPhail's son and brother watched in silence. Outside the prison, a crowd of more than 500 demonstrators cried, hugged, prayed and held candles. They represented hundreds of thousands of supporters worldwide who took up the anti-death penalty cause as Mr. Davis' final days ticked away.
Read on...The last minute 4 hour delay was itself cruel and unusual. Tom

The Conservatives’ crime obsession is not magnificent

The Prison is the Answer to Everything omnibus crime bill introduced by the Conservative government this week has some worthwhile measures – sometimes prison is the answer – but it also tends to go too far. It gets onto a good thing, such as ending the overuse of house arrest in violent crime, and then can't restrain itself from including non-violent offences such as car theft. Or it decides tougher sentences are in order for drug traffickers and organized crime, and then slaps a six-month jail term on anyone who grows six marijuana plants. (The bill is formally known as the Safe Streets and Communities Act, and includes nine bills introduced by the Conservatives during minority rule and never passed.)

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Will Georgia Kill a Possibly Innocent Man?

I'm going to be honest. I only began reading articles about Troy Davis in the last few days. I'm no expert on this case. But from what I have read I have come to the conclusion that the preponderance of the evidence is that he is innocent, and there is absolutely no question that there is a reasonable doubt about his guilt. Yesterday, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles inexplicably decided to deny him clemency, and he is scheduled to die at seven o'clock tonight. A condemned man set to be executed by lethal injection on Wednesday for killing a Georgia police officer in a high-profile case wants a polygraph test in a last-ditch bid to show his innocence, Amnesty International USA said. Troy Davis' case has attracted international attention and an online protest that has accumulated nearly one million signatures because of doubts expressed in some quarters over whether he killed police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989.Read on...

Sweeping crime bill – and costly Tory cost-cutter – revealed

The Conservative government takes the first step Tuesday toward passing a slate of justice bills that have died on the order paper – some of them more than once as a result of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s 2008 election call and decision to prorogue Parliament last year. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson will be joined by Immigration Minister Jason Kenny at the Peel Regional Police Association in Brampton, west of Toronto, to announce that the much-talked-about omnibus crime bill will be tabled in the House.
The Conservative government says the majority mandate it received in the spring election was a signal from Canadians they are behind this bill. But it is likely to contain a number of measures opposed by criminal-justice experts who say they will makes streets less safe while costing billions of dollars. Those measures could include, among other things, keeping young offenders in jail for longer periods of time, harsher penalties for drug crimes including a minimum s…

Crime falls to 1973 levels as Tories push for sentencing reform

New statistics show the national crime rate is continuing its 20-year decline – reaching levels not seen since 1973 even as the federal Conservative government prepares legislation that would put more Canadians behind bars for longer periods of time. It is a juxtaposition of politics and reality that has prompted critics to accuse the government of ignoring facts at taxpayers’ expense as it pursues a criminal-justice agenda focused on punishment rather than prevention.
Statistics Canada released it’s annual survey of police-reported crime on Tuesday. It shows the overall volume of criminal incidents fell by 5 per cent between 2009 and 2010, and the relative severity of the crimes took a similar dive. Homicides, attempted murders, serious assaults and robberies were all down last year from the year before. Young people were accused of committing fewer offences. Even property crime was reported less frequently with reductions in both break-ins and car thefts.
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Weighty Tory crime bill targets drugs, sex offenders, ‘out-of-control' youth

The Harper government has taken the first step toward passing a massive nine-part crime bill – an effort to toughen Ottawa’s approach to the entire pantheon of offenders from drug dealers to sexual predators to what the Conservatives call “out-of-control young people.”

The Tories tabled the omnibus Safer Streets and Communities Act Tuesday, which rolls into one bill nine separate measures. These are all pieces of legislation the Conservatives had failed to enact into law during their minority government years but can now easily pass given their Commons and Senate majorities.

But even as he unveiled this huge justice bill, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson promised the Tories haven’t exhausted their enthusiasm for more crime legislation.“This is not the end; this is just the beginning of our efforts in this regard,” Mr. Nicholson said during a news conference in Brampton, Ont., part of the majority Tory government’s new political base as a result of the May 2011 federal election.Read …

Chitra Raghavan: "Intimate aggression: Understanding sexual coercion"

Texas execution halted amid race debate

Texas death row inmate Duane Buck. (Supplied photo)
WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court gave a reprieve Thursday to a Texas death row inmate in a case tinged by racial controversy, granting a stay more than 90 minutes after the scheduled time of his execution.The high court issued the stay of execution for Duane Buck, 48, who had been scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection at 6 p.m. local time in Huntsville, Texas, for a pair of shotgun murders in 1995 in Houston.Lawyers for Buck, who is black, appealed to the Supreme Court and said he had been unfairly sentenced because a psychologist testified that black men were more likely than other races to be repeat offenders after their release from prison.Upon hearing the news, Buck told prison officials: “Praise the Lord, God is worthy to be praised. God’s mercy triumphs over judgment. I feel good,” accor…

Pandering to the Gun Lobby

How low can the Florida Legislature go in pandering to the gun lobby?

Citizens might have thought the answer came earlier this year when doctors were banned from inquiring about guns in the household as a factor in their patients’ welfare. A federal judge has blocked that, finding that a doctor’s free speech hardly violates the Second Amendment. Now local officials must deal with another gun lobby outrage. They are scrambling to meet an Oct. 1 deadline by which they must scrap all local gun control laws. In 1987, the Legislature passed a law that allowed the state to pre-empt the whole field of gun and ammunition controls, but it had very little effect on real life. “No Guns Allowed” signs and other notices were kept up in appropriate places as communities continued to enforce gun ordinances already on their books.
Read on...This is a New York Times editorial. Tom

Charges not advised in police tasering of 11-year-old

A Prince George Mountie who tasered an 11-year-old first nations boy should not face criminal charges for his conduct, says an external review by West Vancouver Police Department that left a native organization “dumbfounded” for its brevity.Chief Constable Peter Lepine of the West Vancouver police announced the finding in a short open letter, concluding after a six-month investigation that there was no violation of the Criminal Code.“We are not recommending charges,” he wrote of the April incident in which RCMP responding to the stabbing of a 37-year-old man in a group home pursued and tasered an 11-year-old suspect who had barricaded himself in a neighbouring property.He said his team spent much of the spring and summer interviewing witnesses, collecting and analyzing evidence and consulting legal and use-of-force experts as part of a “thorough, fair and transparent” investigation into the matter, which he acknowledged roused concern in Prince George and across Canada.Re…

Addressing Racial Disparities in Incarceration

In a special issue of The Prison Journal Marc Mauer examines the causes and consequences of the extreme racial disparities in incarceration in the U.S.The article assesses effects on public safety and communities, and also offers recommendations for reform in policy and practice to reduce unwarranted disparities.The full article can be viewed here.Read on...

From Attica to Pelican Bay: The Lessons We Haven't Learned About Prison Conditions Over the Past 40 Years

Conditions in U.S. prisons remain far too like the ones that contributed to the uprising at Attica and its brutal suppression

Forty years ago, on September 9th, 1971, prisoners protesting medieval conditions rebelled at Attica, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York. Four days later the state launched a violent assault on the prisoners that left ten hostages and twenty-nine inmates dead. Both the uprising and its bloody suppression should serve as a warning about our country’s rush towards incarceration and the brutality of our prisons.or me, the story of Attica is also a story about justice—the importance of fighting for it, especially for disfavored people, even against terrible odds. I began working at the Center for Constitutional Rights two days prior to Attica’s uprising, and within days joined with lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild, who fought to defend the prisoners and hold the state responsible. The justice we sought was sometimes deferred…

Troy Davis and the Politics of Death

Death brings cheers these days in America. In the most recent Republican presidential debate in Tampa, Fla., when CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked, hypothetically, if a man who chose to carry no medical insurance, then was stricken with a grave illness, should be left to die, cheers of “Yeah!” filled the hall. When, in the prior debate, Gov. Rick Perry was asked about his enthusiastic use of the death penalty in Texas, the crowd erupted into sustained applause and cheers. The reaction from the audience prompted debate moderator Brian Williams of NBC News to follow up with the question, “What do you make of that dynamic that just happened here, the mention of the execution of 234 people drew applause?”

That “dynamic” is why challenging the death sentence to be carried out against Troy Davis by the state of Georgia on Sept. 21 is so important. Davis has been on Georgia’s death row for close to 20 years after being convicted of killing off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail in Savanna…

Rick Perry in the Spotlight as Texas Sets to Work on Controversial Executions

Texas governor and Republican presidential candidate faces appeals for clemency in two highly-charged death row cases by Ed Pilkington in New York Rick Perry, the frontrunner to become the Republican candidate in next year's presidential election, has just hours left to prevent a man being put to death in Texas in a case in which the jury was told the prisoner was a danger to the public – and should therefore be executed – because he was black. Texas death row unit in Huntsville. The state has carried out 234 executions since Rick Perry became governor in 2000. (PhotograpDuane Buck is one of four men scheduled to die by lethal injection in Texas, where Perry is governor, over the next eight days – an exceptional rate even in this execution-happy state. At Buck's sentencing hearing, the jury that set his punishment was informed by a psychologist that black people had a higher rate of violent behavior, a statement used by the prosecution as its key argument aga…

Lawsuit challenges new $25 one-time fee charged to Arizona prison visitors

Family visits may be good for inmates.Only now, it’s going to come with a price tag. A state law that took effect July 1 allows the Department of Corrections to charge a one-time fee on any family member who wants to come see a relative behind bars. The fee is expected to generate about $750,000 this year.Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who inserted the provision into this year’s budget, said the fee is justified. He said there is a cost behind doing the necessary background checks.But James Hamm of the prisoner rights group Middle Ground Prison Reform said anything that discourages family members from visiting is not only a bad idea — said it’s also illegal.A lawsuit filed by Middle Ground in Maricopa County Superior Court claims that lawmakers acted unconstitutionally in authorizing the Department of Corrections to charge the fee. Attorneys for the state disagree and want the case thrown out.Read on...

The Guide to the Death Penalty

The jury box, the prison cell, and the chair—six gripping and disturbing stories about capital punishment.Old Sparky, the electric chair used at Sing Sing prison

While most of Europe and much of the rest of the world have abandoned the death penalty, support for capital punishment in the United States has endured with remarkable consistency, even in the face of wrongful convictions. Here's a look at the death penalty in America through the eyes of those closest to it: the legislators, the judges, the juries, the lawyers, and, of course, the condemned.

The Texas Clemency Memos
Alan Berlow • The Atlantic Monthly • July 2003

As Texas governor and attorney general, respectively, George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales should have given each capital case careful consideration. The evidence suggests they did not:

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Our Vanished Civil Liberties

Caricatures created by politics never fit comfortably into the Oval Office. Eisenhower was less deferential to the military than he seemed likely to be, Kennedy was not at all beholden to the pope, George W. Bush was smarter than portrayed and Barack Obama has not led a charge from the left—least of all on behalf of the civil liberties that have eroded since September 11, 2001.

In pursuit of both terrorists and common criminals, Obama has perpetuated so many of the Bush administration’s policies that even Republicans might take heart. Granted, he triggered an outcry on the right when he attempted to close the Guantánamo prison and try the accused 9/11 plotters in federal court, and he repudiated the Bush/Cheney torture policies by ordering interrogators to abide by the Army Field Manual. His moderately liberal judicial nominees, including two for the Supreme Court, have not won him points with the Federalist Society, which grooms young conservatives for the bench.Otherwise…

Vancouver blasts NHL for lacking anti-riot strategy

The city’s own review of the June 15 Stanley Cup riot rips into the National Hockey League for its alleged hands-off attitude to potentially rowdy playoff celebrations.“In spite of four Stanley Cup riots in the last five years, [the NHL] has no approach, no policy and no apparent strategy to work with host franchises and municipalities on this issue,” says the lengthy internal report to be debated at a special council meeting on Tuesday.“[This] clearly … threatens the value and perception of their brand.”The city’s criticism of the NHL follows similar barbs tossed at the league by the provincially appointment independent review of the riot, headed by co-chairs Douglas Keefe and John Furlong.In their report released last week, they said it was “unfortunate and regrettable” that the NHL has no specific programs to help teams “with the kind of challenge [Vancouver] faced that night.”Concluding that the sport of professional hockey, itself, cannot be separated from the riot, …

Crime and conditional punishment

This is the last in a three-part series on proposed reforms to our justice system.Until 1996, Canadian sentencing judges could impose a fine, a discharge, probation with various conditions, imprisonment or certain combinations of these. In 1996, Parliament added conditional sentences – a non-prison choice – to this list. It’s available for some cases that could otherwise have involved prison sentences of under two years; it’s never available for offenders deserving of a sentence of two years or more or who pose a danger to the community."House arrest” is usually one of the punitive conditions attached to conditional sentences. Hence, it’s often called “home detention.” Other conditions – punitive and therapeutic (community service and treatment, for example) – can be required. Conditional sentences must be proportionate to the gravity of the offence. And unlike prison sentences, offenders serving conditional sentences must serve their full sentences – there’s no paro…

Lord I am so tired: Top 10 Labor Day films

Raise your glass to the hard working peopleLets drink to the uncounted heads Lets think of the wavering millions who need leaders but get gamblers instead -from “Salt of the Earth”, by Mick Jagger & Keith Richard

disclosure (I am so ashamed). It had been so long since I actually
stopped to contemplate the true meaning of Labor Day, I had to refresh
myself with a web search. Like many of my fellow wage slaves, I usually
anticipate it as just another one of the 7 annual paid holidays offered
by my employer (table scraps, really…relative to the other 254 weekdays
I’m required to spend chained to a desk, slipping ever closer to the
I’m not getting you down, am I?
Anyway, back to the true meaning of Labor Day. According to the U.S.D.O.L. website:
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How many have you seen. Tom

Vancouver police lost control before the puck dropped, riot report finds

Although 42 people turned themselves in and hundreds have been identified, police have made no arrests after riots in Vancouver following the Stanley Cup finals.
Vancouver police were overwhelmed and underprepared the night of the Stanley Cup final and lost control of the crowds before the game even began, a report has found. But the independent review, released Thursday, also said that no number of officers would have been enough to stop the thousands of young, drunk fans from rioting.Former VANOC chief John Furlong, one of the co-chairs of the review, said despite the police response that night, blame for the riot falls on “thugs and villains and people who cheered them on.” He added that police and other officials made heroic efforts to contain the riot. “We believe then and we believe today that lynching is not the appropriate response to a riot,” wrote authors Furlong and the other co-chair, lawyer Douglas …

Police board refuses to promote G20 officers

Police board refuses to promote G20 officersRobyn DoolittleUrban Affairs Reporter The Toronto police board has taken the unprecedented step of refusing to promote nine officers who were disciplined for removing their name tags during G20 demonstrations.Chief Bill Blair recommended those promotions and the civilian oversight board’s refusal to agree suggests cracks in what has historically been a close relationship.On Tuesday, the police association filed a grievance. If the arbitrator sides with the police board, it will make clear a currently gray area regarding the board’s powers to refuse promotions.In the past, the board has passively pushed through reclassification recommendations from the chief, including for officers who have unbecoming conduct on their records.That practice has been a sore spot for years among some on the board, who feel uneasy about giving more authority to officers they believe have shown questionable judgment and character.Read on...

10 Books About Prison That Will Make You Rethink the United States Penal System

We take for granted that more than 2 million US citizens are incarcerated. These books suggest it's time to rethink the whole operation.

While the fact of prisons simmers behind innumerable news stories – from the West Memphis 3 to the Lockerbie bomber to the Miami football scandal -- the enormity of the system remains weirdly invisible. Prison is framed as a sort of conclusion; it’s where the bad guys go before vanishing into the ether and allowing our attention to move onto the next story. But more than two million lives are lived in U.S. prisons these days. And not only is the day-to-day reality of that worthy of more attention, but so are the consequences of our economic and political dependence on a punitive system that incarcerates 25 percent of the entire world’s inmates. Five percent of the world population is locked up in U.S. prisons. Both inside and outside the walls, much is stake.

Here are ten of the best books – contemporary and classic, fiction and no…

Obama’s Illegal Assaults

How once-controversial ‘war on terror’ tactics became the new normal.Anti-torture activists demonstrate June 23, in front of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Photo by: Karen

Barack Obama has continued virtually all of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s once-controversial terrorism and civil liberties policies, a fact now recognized across the political spectrum. Even the right wing acknowledges these policies have continued under the Obama presidency, which is interesting, because for decades Republicans have made political hay by accusing Democrats of being weak on national security (or “soft on terrorism” in this age of terror).For example, Jack Goldsmith, a right-wing ideologue and a high-ranking Justice Department official in George W. Bush’s first term—when “enhanced interrogation techniques” (what the civilized world calls “torture”) were frequently employed—has criticized Dick Cheney’s daughter and Irving Crystal’s son for claiming that Obama has abandoned these po…

Canada’s imprisoned bomb-plotters say their isolation does not fit the crime

Five men convicted of distinct al-Qaeda-inspired bomb plots have ended up isolated in a single wing within Canada’s most punishing prison – a fate they say they don’t deserve.The complaints from the inmates arise as federal authorities struggle with how to jail radical Islamists – whether to isolate them, what programs to craft for them and how to achieve the correctional system’s stated goal of rehabilitation.Government officials say they have good reason for keeping such inmates away from the general prison population, fearing they may radicalize others. But the policy does produce an ironic result: The convicted terror plotters associate mostly with one another.The issue is not large in terms of numbers. The five prisoners represent the bulk of the terrorism convicts sent to penitentiaries since Canada passed the Anti-Terrorism Act in 2001.Read on...

Black wields a poison pen in jailhouse memoir

Conrad Black leaves his Palm Beach, Fla., mansion for the drive to Coleman penitentiary on March 3, 2008.Here is the scene.March 3, 2008. Conrad Black takes note of the “sparkling-blue, foam-capped Atlantic” as he and Barbara Amiel exit their palatial home in Palm Beach, Fla., headed for the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex.Prior to departure, Black wonders if Amiel’s “tiny, white, lamblike puppy” will remember him upon his return.The couple finds the “indifferent visage” of the penitentiary — monolithic, banal — to be matched by the personnel. They enter the correction centre. They are ignored. Amiel speaks: “My husband, Conrad Black, is here to self-surrender.”Read on...

Chief Blair says 1,000 cops could be axed to meet budget target

n what appears to be a looming budget showdown, Police Chief Bill Blair has suggested as many as 1,000 front-line officers — far more than previously discussed — may have to be laid off to meet the city’s demands. That’s double the number floated earlier this year when the police services board asked the chief to investigate the impact of cutting 500 officers.Blair told Citytv on Wednesday the cuts would “have a very significant impact on public safety and our ability to keep the city safe. I would be very concerned about our ability to absorb that type of loss.”Councillor Michael Thompson, vice-chair of the police board, said they “are extremely disappointed” Blair used the media to discuss these issues when the board hasn’t seen his full report.
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